In May, before the end of the school year, Lucas and Ian got to go on the fourth-grade class trip to Malakoff Diggins, a California State Historic Park that was once a hydraulic mining operation in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Twenty-eight students, one class teacher, one Spanish teacher, and about ten parent volunteers/chaperones went for two and a half days. They dressed in Gold Rush period clothing, cooked their meals over an open fire, hiked, made rope, made candles, built their own benches for sitting around the campfire, learned about gold mining, danced, listened to a storyteller entertainer, and forged their own iron hooks. They had a marvelous time and came back filthy and tired, but very satisfied.
The class made wonderful wood, tin, and plexiglass lanterns in school, so they would have a way to see at night. I’m told that the food was wonderful the whole time.
These are the cabins Ian stayed in when he was a boy, going camping with his mother and sister. Malakoff Diggins is very special to him and he jumped at the chance to chaperone. I’m so glad he got to do it, both for his sake and for Lucas’s sake. For Lucas, it was fun having his dad there to share in the adventure.
There was an old, old piano in the saloon. Lucas and some other students got to play it. They also played cards and ordered root beer from Ian, the barkeep. To get their second root beer, they had to tell Ian a joke, a fact, or a riddle.
The blacksmith was amazing, according to Ian. He was a volunteer who, in his time of working with children at Malakoff Diggins, had helped over 10,000 kids make iron hooks like this one. He had his system down pat, with every child getting the opportunity to both work the bellows and hammer the iron hooks into shape. Isn’t Lucas’s hook terrific?
The parents in attendance brought a wagon load of essential skills along to help: camping, cooking, nursing, building, child herding, and much more.
Everyone even tried square dancing and country dancing.
A few brave kids brought their guitars and played music around the campfire. I’m so impressed by this! These kids are so comfortable with each other, as they’ve been together since first grade (and some since preschool).
This is how Lucas looked when he returned home after two and a half days—filthy and soooo tired.
These photos are just some of my favorite shots. I took a bunch of “before” shots on the morning they all left town, when the kids were clean, fresh-faced, and eager. Ian took all the wonderful photographs of the kids at Malakoff Diggins, for which I am so grateful. I had a TON of fun editing the photos when they returned, adding filters and making them look old-timey—something altogether new to me. Anyway, aren’t they the most beautiful children in the Wild West?
I am so grateful that my son got to experience this! Although every child in California studies California history in fourth grade, few get to immerse themselves in a Gold Rush era town for a few days, living and working like people used to do. These children, because of their Waldorf background, took to this stuff so easily. Make our own rope? Of course! My heartfelt thanks goes to the teachers and brave parents to took them. And thank you to Malakoff Diggins for having such a terrific program.